Special: Indische Kunstveiling
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Gerard Pieter Adolfs (1898-1968)
'Madoereesche moord' / The Madurese Murder
signed lower right and dated '32.
inscription on the reverse: 'Nr. 147 Madoereesche moord' en dated '32
oil on canvas, 78x113 cm
Literature: E. Borntraeger-Stoll en G. Orsini, ‘Gerard Pieter Adolfs (1898-1968), the painter of Java and Bali’, Wijk & Aalburg, 2008, with black and white picture on p. 378: 'Madoereesche moord' 1929, oil on canvas, circa 90x135 cm. And ill. on p. 23: This is an an illustration of Adolf's private house with the furniture he designed for I.E.V. clubhouse (Indo-European Association) in Surabaya in 1932. On the wall we see the painting 'The Madurese Murder'.
At the time of the publication of the book in 2008, the whereabouts of the painting was unknown. This explains the incorrect date of 1929 in the book.
Gerard Pieter Adolfs (1898–1968) – ‘The Madurese Murder’
The 1929 painting ‘The Madurese Murder’ is one of the highlights in the oeuvre of Gerard Pieter Adolfs (1898–1968). One anonymous art critic writing for the Soerabaijasch Handelsblad (‘Surabayan Newspaper’), who labelled the work as such in 1933, described the ominous, mystical atmosphere and the mounting tension evident in every brushstroke.
Small though the main players in the painting may be, the dramatic nature of the event is heightened by the majestic weeping fig, the boat in the foreground, the tense spectators, and not least the architecture—partly old houses and crumbling walls, partly modern Art Deco—the layered composition, the use of chiaroscuro. Adolfs has put everything into building towards this stunning climax. The anonymous critic calls the result ‘Rembrandtesque’.
It is evident that the European study trip Adolfs undertook in 1928 resulted in a dramatic shift in his painting style. In Italy, he studied the works of Caravaggio and at the Dutch Rijksmuseum those of Rembrandt, from which he learned how to fully utilise the chiaroscuro effect.
As a child, the Java born and bred Adolfs had a knack for drawing, and his education in architecture helped him capture his environment, but he did not receive a formal education in painting. In this sense, he was self-taught. He studied the work of the old masters and the rich colours of Java, and he began to mix his own paint. In an interview by Henri van Velthuijsen, in the February 1936 issue of the magazine ‘D’Oriënt’, Adolfs says he managed to find time between being an architect and a father to teach himself how to paint, and that he was pleasantly surprised by the results of his early ventures into painting. These works are remarkable in particular because of their evident spontaneity and their impressionistic atmosphere. Adolfs was eager to see the ‘reality all around him’, and to portray it in a way that allowed the viewer to see through his eyes. This allowed Adolfs to take his painting in a clear direction: he knew what he wanted to convey to his audience, including potential buyers. To pour his heart and soul into truly understanding reality—that was what Adolfs wanted as a painter. He compared himself to a musician who can only learn how to play his instrument optimally after much practice. No ‘l’art pour l’art’, but art and artist providing a service to his community.
Worth noting is an observation made by art critic Cornelis Veth in response to one of Adolfs’ exhibitions in the Royal Art Gallery Kleykamp in 1929. Veth saw a directness and spontaneity in the atmosphere of the scenes Adolfs captured in his paintings: in the intimate and vivid setting of an old district in Surabaya (as in ‘The Madurese Murder’), an epic landscape, or the elegant indolence of the indigenous population. Adolfs had a gift for enthralling his audience with passionate, unpretentious inspiration and well-chosen compositions. (‘De Telegraaf’, 2 June 1929.)
Encouraged—and supported financially—by the publisher of the Soerabaijasch Handelsblad, Henri Carel Zentgraaff, Adolfs undertook a trip to Europe in 1928. Via the Suez Canal, he travelled to several cities of great cultural and artistic interest. In Genoa, Rome, and Florence he saw the work of Italian Renaissance painters and met his contemporaries. In Paris, he befriended Foujita, with whom he met once again many years later, in 1936, during a trip to Japan. After Paris, Adolfs visited Amsterdam, where he saw the work of the Dutch masters in the Rijksmuseum, inspiring him in his preparations for his exhibition at the Royal Art Gallery Kleykamp in June of the following year (1929).
When Adolfs returned to Surabaya in 1928 to prepare his first exhibition after his trip to Europe, the public was apprehensive. This apprehension proved unfounded: in Malang, Surabaya, and Semarang his work was highly praised. ‘He stayed true to himself, thank heavens’ (‘De Indische Courant’, Surabaya, 4 April 1930).
After a few years of painting in a Rembrandtesque style, Adolfs changed course: his works in the period 1930–1935 are perhaps best characterised as graphic due to the use of sharp contours and repoussoir, a technique used to create depth by placing an object or figure in the foreground. In their book on the artist, Eveline Borntraeger-Stoll and Gianni Orsini describe the period of 1936–1940 as his impressionistic phase. The vibrating use of colour and lack of contours take centre stage, as opposed to his earlier, more monochromatic works. In 1940 Adolfs was forced to return to the Netherlands; WWII prevented him from returning to his beloved Indies. This period (1940–1947) is referred to as the Luminist period. Powerful, short brushstrokes allowed Adolfs to give his characters more personality than before, and intense colour combinations turned parts of his canvasses into something resembling a painter’s palette.
In Adolfs’ Neo-Impressionist years (1946–1967), his use of colour became more intense still as he further emphasised the contrast between colours and dark and light. His powerful strokes, made using a palette knife, underscored this effect. For important details such as faces, he kept using a traditional brush. In some portraits, Adolfs did use a palette knife, but this coarseness did not always do justice to his subjects. In his later years, this development led to experiments in abstract painting. As they never quite seemed to leave the experimental stage, these works are not generally considered highlights of his oeuvre.
Kusama Affandi (1907-1990)
signed and dated 1973 upper right
oil on canvas, 98x151 cm
Provenance: acquired directly from the artist in the Yogyakarta in 1973 and since that time in the same private collection in the Netherlands.
Statement of the present owner:
'The painting was bought by my husband, when he was living and working in Indonesia in the early 1970’s. My husband was a great lover of modern art and he was very impressed by Affandi’s style and the energy and vigour in his paintings. On a visit to Yogyakarta, he paid a visit, almost a pilgrimage, to Affandi’s house. He watched him actually painting this painting. Affandi seemed to be almost attacking the canvas; he drew the outlines of the animals first, with his fingers and then squeezed and squirted the paint straight onto the canvas, grabbing one tube after another in a frenzy of energy.
My husband had very little money at the time, but he just had to have the painting and put every last penny together to pay the price, after heated negotiations in Bahasa'.
Affandi is probably Indonesia’s best known painter. Mostly self-taught, he won international acclaim from the 1950s onwards. The influential English art critic John Berger for example called him ‘a genius’. He was born Boerhanoedin Affandi Koesoema in Jatitujuh, Indramayu (part of Cirebon), West Java in 1907 as a son of Raden Koesoema, surveyor of a sugarfactory. After his father died when he was still at school, he stayed with an artistic family in Jakarta where he was introduced to oil painting by the painter Sudjojono. In 1929 he met his future wife Maryati who definitely stimulated Affandi’s painting career. Their daughter Kartika became an artist too.
Affandi’s work has an undeniably characteristic style that can be described as dynamic expressionism. His social involvement resounds in his subject matter. The technique he uses in his paintings is a personal form of action painting in which he squeezes the paint directly from the tube on the canvas and subsequently uses his hands to draw the accents. The story goes that he came across this technique by accident. Unable to find a pencil one day, he squeezed the paint on the canvas and found out that the result was very lively. The swirling movement in his painting and the gripping subject matter resulted in an utterly personal style that is unrivalled.
Affandi sought to portray life as he saw it. His representation of reality is raw, unadorned, even ugly sometimes. He also encouraged fellow Indonesian artists to strive for authenticity rather than to depict an idealized, imaginary Indonesia as the Mooi Indië-painters and members of Pita-Maha did.
‘I don’t base my paintings on beauty. My life is based on humanity. With my works, I attempt to stir people’s sense of humanity’, he once told an art critic.1
This commitment to honest expression and authenticity for Affandi implies painting nudes and erotic themes. His nudes are not so much meant to please the eye as to draw attention to human suffering or social abuse. The same applies to the painting of a wild boar at auction. As Eddy Soetriyono states in his essay ‘Affandi, the nude, and the erotic’ referring to a similar boar-painting: ‘… to convey the idea that raging lust can be deeply spiteful, Affandi effectively features in one of his paintings a male boar going frantic with the urge to copulate - its red organ ready to charge anything at the first opportunity.’2 He continues quoting Affandi himself: ‘Don’t take what’s there on the surface only. Behind all this is just me with my gloom. Don’t find out just the meaning of what is depicted, try to interpret what the images allude to.’3
As a renowned artist, Affandi had numerous exhibitions all over the world. He worked in India, went to Europe where his paintings were on show in Paris, London, Brussels and Rome and visited the United States three times. He represented the independent Republic of Indonesia at the Biennale in Sao Paulo (1953) and Venice (1954). In later life he received various important prizes and recognitions for his art work and effort for human rights.
From 1965 onwards he established the Affandi Museum in Yogyakarta. The architectural design was by the artist himself. He died in Yogyakarta on May 23 1990 and was buried on the museum premises.
1. Eddy Soetriyono , ‘Affandi, the nude, and the erotic’ in: Sardjana Sumichan (ed.), Affandi, Vol I, Jakarta/Singapore 2007, p.154
2. Ibid. p.155
3. Ibid. p.156
Lee Man Fong (1913-1988)
Two doves under a blossoming branch
Lee Man Fong's 'long' signature and stamp, threequarters down on the right-hand side in black and red.
oil on board, 101x49 cm
Private collection The Netherlands.
Lee Man Fong rendered several versions of the ‘doves’-theme. The painting at auction stands out because of its exceptionally harmonious composition and beautiful colouring. The tree and the cherry-red blossoms enclose the two birds to form a moving unity against the subtle celadon-coloured background.
The composition and the alignment of the doves, the delicate impasto of the applied paint, the subtle colour palette, using vivid indigo blue here and there and the soft celadon-colour in the background, set this painting apart from other 'doves' by Lee Man Fong. This painting can be categorized as one of Lee Man Fong's more rare spring season 'doves', defined by the brightly blossoming flowers at the upper end of the painting, contrary to his more subdued autumn and winter season animal paintings. The painting is considered to be one of Lee Man Fong's earlier 'doves'. The late owners met Lee Man Fong in Indonesia where he told them that he considered this painting to be one of his favourites.
The painting has remained in the family since it was acquired in 1962 and has had no public viewing since. Having owned several works by Lee Man Fong and also having met him, the owners kept this specific painting because of both Lee Man Fong's and the owners' view, exceptional quality - especially when compared to the numerous other 'doves' Lee Man Fong painted over the years.
For more information on Lee Man Fong see also lotnumber 73.